Re: Open Letter about OA to the Royal Society by Fellows of the Royal Society

From: Ward, Bob <Bob.Ward_at_ROYALSOC.AC.UK>
Date: Fri, 9 Dec 2005 08:49:41 -0000

Dear Stevan,

If this was "a rather disinterested contribution of BMC toward OA", why
was its involvement not openly declared in the letter, or in the
prominent piece that BioMed Central devoted to the letter on the home
page of its website? My understanding is that some of the signatories
did not even know about BMC's involvement when they signed.

I think it would be best for contributors to the debate on open access
to openly declare their interests. The Royal Society has openly
acknowledged that, as a registered charity, it uses its surplus from the
publication of its journals to fund meetings, lectures and other
activities for the benefit of the science, engineering and technology
communities, and for the public.

So how about everybody else declaring their interests? After all, it is
now standard practice for authors to declare any potential conflicts of
interest when they submit papers to journals. So perhaps you could start
a trend, Stevan, by declaring your interests.

Best wishes,


Bob Ward
Senior Manager
Policy Communication
Royal Society
6-9 Carlton House Terrace

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7451 2516
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7451 2615
Mobile: +44 (0) 7811 320346

-----Original Message-----
From: Stevan Harnad []
Sent: Thursday, December 08, 2005 21:28
To: AmSci Forum
Subject: Re: Open Letter about OA to the Royal Society by Fellows of the
Royal Society

     Re: "Science academy defends open access policy"
     Donald MacLeod, Guardian: Education
     Thursday December 8, 2005,10577,1662988,00.html

On Thu, 8 Dec 2005 wrote:

> Dear Stevan
> Royal Society response to my website piece
> is this true?
> best wishes Donald

Dear Donald,

You ask whether BMC coordinated the Open Letter from Fellows of the
Royal Society dissenting from the Royal Society statement. The answer is
yes, in part (and PLoS too).

My understanding is that the negative reaction to the Royal Society
statement occurred, in part, among FRSs who were either editors or on
the editorial board of some BMC (and probably PLoS) journals. This
formed a point of focus for a collective action, which BMC helped
coordinate -- which is a very good thing, because otherwise it may have
taken longer to reach critical mass. (It would almost certainly have
happened anyway.)

But before you make too much of the spin that the RS's publicist, Bob
Ward, is trying to put on it ("potential vested commercial interest"),
please note the following two facts:

    (1) There are far more signatories than the small initial
    seed-population of BMC Editors


   (2) This was a rather disinterested contribution of BMC toward OA,
   because it is not OA publishing that the RCUK is proposing to
   but OA self-archiving -- of articles published in *non-OA* journals.

This means that BMC (and PLoS) helped for the sake of OA, not for the
sake of BMC journals, which, from the financial point of view, are
actually in a kind of *competition* with OA self-archiving. For BMC's
and PLoS's primary appeal to authors is that they should publish in BMC
or PLoS in order to make their research OA. But the RCUK mandate will
make all RCUK-funded articles OA through self-archiving, making it
*unnecessary* to publish in an OA journal in order to make an article

So Bob Ward sees a "potential vested commercial interest" only because
he and the RS continue to see this all (rather jadedly) as a competition
for money (in this case: money via subscription-charges vs. BMC's money
via author-charges). In reality, it is not about money or competition at
all: it is about OA.

I will be responding publicly to the "RS"'s response (I have not yet
it) and particularly to whatever they imply publicly about BMC's very
welcome and commendable help in rousing the growing FRS response. I
myself am drawing it to the attention of FRSs I know too, including Tim
Berners-Lee, who (I still hope) might agree to sign Friday.

You might also note that BMC (unlike those who drafted the Royal Society
statement, which looks to have been largely the RS's publishing wing) at
least had the courtesy to actually inform and contact the FRSs about
what is going on! (This rather nullifies Bob Ward's plaint that the
signers of the Open Letter "did not offer the Society a chance to
respond." This sort of clumsy self-servingness will not wash well in
public. And I'll bet this is not really the voice of the RS at all: It's
just the pub-ops tail wagging the regal pooch...)

Cheers, Stevan
Received on Fri Dec 09 2005 - 16:49:30 GMT

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